Pros and Cons of an Electric Pool Heater

An electric pool heater, also known as a heat pump, is one of the most popular ways to keep your pool warm during the cold season. Electric pool heaters bring water into a heating tank, then pump the now warmed water back into the pool. This constant exchange of cold and warm keeps your pool perfectly heated, even when the weather is cold. There are two types of electric heaters, or heat pumps.

What Are Water-Source Heat Pumps?

A water-source heat pump transfers heat from a water-source into your pool. The source water then passes over an evaporator coil that contains Freon, causing it to become warm Freon gas. The warm Freon gas passes through a compressor which compresses it into hot Freon gas. This hot Freon gas then passes through a condenser, through which the pool water exits and enters. The pool water passes over the coil, heats up, and then goes back into the pool.

What Are Air-Source Heat Pumps?

Air-source heat pumps do not generate heat. Rather, they use electricity to capture heat from the air and then move that heat from one place to another. The way these heat pumps work is nearly identical to the electric heat pump found in many homes, and very similar to water-source heat pumps.

The unit stores liquid refrigerant within coils, which turn from liquid into gas when heat pulled from the air passes over the coils. The refrigerant then passes through a compressor and moves to the condenser to heat the pool water.

Pros of Electric Heaters

Initial Cost: Electric pool heaters are far less expensive than their gas or solar counterparts, when it comes to both unit price and installation. However, use of an electric heater can cost more than other heating methods, so it may be a good idea to moderate the use of your electric heater to save money.

Reliability: The most reliable pool heater you can have is an electric one. Solar panels are dependent on the amount of sun they can receive and gas heaters can be affected by extreme temperatures. Electric heat pumps do not have these issues and can be run any time of the year, no matter the conditions.

Versatility: Most electric heat pumps also allow you to cool the water, a valuable feature in areas with extremely hot temperatures, where the summer sun often heats pool water to temperatures similar to a hot tub.

Cons of Electric Heaters

Cost of Operation: While some manufacturer’s may tout the “dollar a day” cost to operate a heat pump, the fine print proves that the temperatures at that cost are not nearly warm enough for most bathers. So $365 to run a heat pump might seem like a great cost, but that could easily be the cost for one month’s operation during the cold season. This is because they take heat from the air and, when it’s extremely cold, there isn’t a lot of heat for them to find (although they do work at temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit). When it comes down to it, electric heaters cost the most to run when they are most necessary, so expect to spend more during the winter.

Efficiency: Electric heaters can take several hours to heat your pool and usually only heat the water by a few degrees per hour. If you run it only during the day, it will have to start over each day to make up for the heat lost during the night. But unless you are willing, able, and prepared to pay for the extra costs, it does not make monetary sense to run an electric heat pump overnight.

Bottom Line

A properly installed and maintained electric pool heater can last twice as long as a gas heater. And, if you leave in an area that doesn’t experience extreme cold temperatures, electric heaters are likely your best option. However, if your area experiences prolonged, extreme winters, an electric heater would likely prove too inefficient and costly to operate during the coldest months.

Always consult a professional for the installation of your heater, as well as for your annual maintenance on the heating unit. While most heating units are made with material meant to withstand the elements and conditions of a pool, it is important to make sure you have them checked to prevent any issues down the road.

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

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